My team recently won a startup pre-accelerator. It was a fantastic learning experience and a chance to network with people in the tech ecosystem. Here is what I learned from the whole experience; this will be useful to someone interested in the startup space.
Quick TLDR if you don’t have time to read the entire article: When creating a product from scratch, I learned that the most important things are 1. doing customer interviews, 2. launching your idea on the market as soon as you can, 3. iterate iterate iterate based on the first 2 points; customer interviews should be done regularly, and the idea should be fleshed out and adapted to market needs constantly.
All right, let’s get to the meat and potatoes:
1. Most startup failures happen because your idea is not really needed on the market. Find a problem that actually exists and solve it using technology.
2. Finding your “why”. Building a startup is HARD; therefore, having a great “why am I doing this?” will help you weather the storm when things get tough.
3. Focus on the scalability of your ideas; this will be attractive to investors.
4. The business model canvas is full of hypotheses at first. They should be quantifiable. You test these hypotheses WIIIITH (drum roll ?) customer interviews. Ah yes, the dreaded customer interviews. No one wants to do them, yet they’re a key ingredient of a successful startup. Ultimately, you also test the business model hypotheses when you launch your product on the market. That’s why you do an MVP and try to fail fast so that you disprove or validate your hypotheses quickly.
5. Learn to be a skeptic and play devil’s advocate with your idea; what is your app solving? Is it needed, or is it just a nice to have? Don’t start the development until you get really clear on that.
6. The brand is VERY important – it’s one of the key differentiators of your product. Brand is about emotion: what do your customers feel and think about your product when they hear its name? It’s the “story unfolding across all customer touch points” – Jonah Sachs.
7. It’s essential to think about ways in which you will monetize the product. Multiple ways exist – subscription, freemium, one-time rate, or using another revenue stream to keep your product free. Do competition research on this.
8. Know your Customer’s Journey and the entire sales funnel. Know about marketing tools for each part of the funnel. Know the Buyer’s Persona of your product, and make it very specific. Understand as much as you can about your clients: who they are, their pain points, where their attention is, their geolocation, the events they frequent, the forums they visit, etc.
9. Pitching! This is hard, but it’s very important as well. Know about the ethos, logos, and pathos framework. It comes from ancient times, but it stuck around for a reason. Ethos is using authority and credibility in your presentation (e.g., “Our team has X years of experience in data science and software development. We have business-savvy people who graduated from University Y and worked for Z years in the field.”) Logos is showing how your app would work, showing the research that you did about the problem, the people you interviewed, stats, stats, stats. The statistics and data should be relevant and make sense. Be prepared to defend them and know the source. Pathos is using storytelling in your presentation, public speaking skills and charisma, or even just being vulnerable (e.g. “Hey, I’ve always had problem X. I’ve tried many things, and none of them worked. I realized this sort of app would be perfect for solving it and so the idea for our product was born”)
There is much to be said about all the above points, and I might write a more in-depth article about each of them in the future.
But if you think you have an entrepreneurial seed that you want to nourish, do it. Found the startup and the experience you will gain will be invaluable regardless of its success.
Stay tuned for more insights into the startup world!